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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

New Things at the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 20, 2019

Many times I have said that public libraries have not changed their focus over time, all that has changed is the tools that we have to use in finding information for the public.

 

Books are still published, actually more books than ever before.  People still read books and check out books from the public library but that only scratches the surface of what is happening at a public library today.

 

At the same time, there are categories of books that have changed over the last generation.  Reference books have been going away for the past 25 years since it makes sense to move those to online systems due to their rapid updating.

 

Encyclopedias are basically gone.  People often receive an online encyclopedia with the purchase of a new computer, or you can access encyclopedias with your library card on the library website.  www.steubenvillelibrary.org

 

Atlases from the Sanford maps to anything you can think of are online these days.

 

Literature searching can be done with our online systems through Gale Research and other online products on OPLIN (Ohio Public Library Information Network), both of which have completely eradicated those volumes of sets of matching books that used to grace the reference section of a library.

 

And, don’t yell at me, but poetry books are dead-in-the-water in a library collection.  Individuals write poetry and enjoy it, but collections of poetry have stopped being sought by today’s readers.

 

Turning to antiques books; remember the various series many by Kovel that used to grace library shelves ---- well they have been taken over by online systems.

 

Most people are searching for the history and collectability of “antique objects” and the price for those objects in today’s marketplace.

 

The value of an antique is the price that someone will pay for it.  I found that out when I researched my mother’s 1958 mantle clock and found books and resources that said it was worth $ 200-300.

 

EBay had three exact same clocks for sale between $ 15-20 and none had received any “bids” online.  So what is it worth really, and has eBay become the new source for antique research?

 

Books are still used to document and provide history of specific antique lines, so don’t discount them all together.

Auto repair manuals, those large books smeared with oil and fingerprints, are a thing-of-the-past, replaced by online systems which librarians think are a much better source as you look for the specific issue you need for your car.

 

Our library system subscribes to auto repair reference center and Chilton’s online library, and you can come to one of our libraries and they will research your specific car manual need.

 

Similar to that resource is the small engine online guide for things such as lawn mowers.

 

Public libraries are always replacing worn & lost books that are sometimes no longer available from mainline publishers.

 

I was looking for a title for replacement and found advertisements for a copy here and there and they were all in excess of $ 100 in price.

 

Again online resources to the rescue with Allibris, a national antiquarian bookstore that combines the collections of bookstores across the nation, as well as its own California warehouse.

 

And yes, there was a brand new copy for $ 12.  And it’s the same story as antiques, books are worth whatever someone is willing to pay for them.

 

How about Consumer Reports, a popular periodical publication that was commonplace in every library?  Yes, it is now online and available at the library or from your home and office computer through the library website.

 

There are a couple exceptions to online systems availability.  People ask why we don’t allow outside access to some of our products, and the answer is the companies producing it won’t allow remote access.

 

This would include Ancestry – Library Edition, the Westlaw database of legal materials, and newspaper archives, a database of millions of pages of newspapers nationwide.

 

These items, are available in all 7 of our library locations, as well as all of the products of OPLIN and items contracted by our library system.